When the original First City Troopers gathered at Carpenters Hall in 1774 to form their new cavalry unit, many of them already knew each other as members of the Gloucester Fox Hunting Club.
Founded in 1766 at the London Coffee House, the Gloucester Hunt was the first subscription fox hunting club ever formed in British North America.
Its members gathered at dawn once or twice a week to cross the Delaware River from Philadelphia to New Jersey, where the could ride to hounds in Gloucester. When its members helped form the Philadelphia Light Horse, the unit adopted their hunt colors (brown-buff-gold) as its regimental colors, which the First City Troop retains today.
These "Gentlemen of Gloucester” were bold young men, physically fit, well-conditioned to the saddle, and familiar with the regional terrain around Philadelphia and in the New Jersey countryside. On occasion, they chased foxes as far east as the Jersey Shore. Such capabilities made them excellent raw material for becoming cavalry scouts—a military specialty much treasured by General George Washington.
No images survive of the original Gloucester huntsmen in action, but some Troopers still hunt today. Bennett Opitz (pictured above) grew up with the sport in rural Virginia. He is certainly one of the few enlisted men in the U.S. Army who joined the service because of fox hunting.
According to Opitz, “Fox hunting made me want to become a modern Cavalry Scout in the U.S. Army. It taught me to navigate unfamiliar terrain while taking calculated risks, in pursuit of an adversary—in this case, a fox.”